Hyderabad: The Telangana government has expressed its unwillingness to go ahead with the high court’s proposal on setting up a high-powered committee to look into the issues that led to the days-long strike by employees of the Telangana Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC).
As the agitation entered 40th day, another employee of the corporation committed suicide in Mahabubabad district on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the court offered to constitute the committee with three retired Supreme Court judges to sort out the issue of TSRTC workers and asked Advocate General BS Prasad to respond to the suggestion. Accordingly, Prasad filed an affidavit on Wednesday on behalf of the government expressing its unwillingness over the issue.
The affidavit said, “There is no provision of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, that envisage the constituting of a high-powered committee of former judges of the Supreme Court or any other dignitaries to reconcile the parties or to refer to adjudicate an industrial dispute.”
Responding to the government’s affidavit, the petitioner’s advocate quoted previous judgments of high courts and the Supreme Court to state that the HC has a right to constitute such a committee.
Further, he said 27 workers of the corporation have committed suicide during the prolonged strike and urged the court to instruct the government to take necessary steps so that the agitation is called off.
Prasad said the labour commissioner has already called the strike illegal as the TSRTC came under Emergency Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). He said as the matter was already being heard by the high court, the government has not moved the labour court over the issue.
The AG urged the court to give directions to the labour commissioner to take necessary steps in this regard.
He also said that as the TSRTC was formed under Section 3 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, there was no need to take permission from Union government in any matter related to it and the corporation’s maintenance was the sole responsibility of the state government.
The high court examined the petitions against the proposed privatisation of the corporation, one of the reasons behind the indefinite strike and posted the matter for further hearing on Thursday.
A leader of the Joint Action Committee, heading the weeks-long agitation of the transport employees, said, “We are ready to follow the court’s directions. We will continue our strike till November 18.”
Meanwhile, on the 40th day of the strike, TSRTC workers demonstrated in front of bus depots across the state and staged rallies against the government.
Nearly 48,000 employees of the corporation have been on an indefinite strike since October 5, demanding merger of the TSRTC with the government transport department and pay revision among others.
Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has taken a tough stand on the issue and called the strike illegal as it has caused immense harassment to public. Earlier, he had also warned the employees that if they failed to return to work, there would be no entity called the TSRTC in the state.
A driver of the corporation, Avula Naresh, ended his life in Mahabubabad district on Wednesday. Naresh’s wife was suffering from different ailments and about Rs 5,000 was required on a monthly basis for her medical expenses. The corporation has not paid salaries to the workers for two months.
Naresh’s co-workers said the government’s attitude towards the TSRTC workers forced him to take the extreme step. Trade unions leaders say that without a source of livelihood, financial problems coupled by the mental trauma, many employees have been driven to suicide.